Shoot The Rocks: tips and tricks for dealing with black holes in my version of Asteroids

There are a few things about the modern variant of Shoot The Rocks that aren’t really reflective of the original arcade games on which it’s based.

Shoot The Rocks is perhaps most similar to Asteroids Deluxe, which is a fairly basic evolution of the original Asteroids. We still don’t have the satellites in Shoot The Rocks yet: I do intend to add them, it’s just a case of finding the time.

The greater use of colour is reminiscent of Space Duel, and the (soon to be implemented) availability of power-ups is somewhat reminiscent of Blasteroids - although my power-ups are very much focussed on fairly simple weapons upgrades only.

I suppose I do like to think that Shoot The Rocks has its own character though, particularly when the modern variant is played. The graphics, whilst similar and very much tipping a hat to the original vector games, are different from the original, as are the game dynamics and some of the features.

For example, something that doesn’t appear in any of the arcade games or their ports, as far as I’m aware, are black holes.

A black hole - admittedly more of a blue hole - shown near the player's ship during a game of Shoot The Rocks. Note the asteroids in close proximity

Note the black hole (yes, admittedly it’s blue, but I felt like it needed to be visible to keep the game fair!) below the player’s ship. Note also that it’s drawn a number of asteroids towards it. It took me several attempts to get this screenshot as my ship kept getting destroyed by asteroids that were being sucked in towards the black hole (see tips below).

These are very much based on the star that appeared in the grandsire of all shooters, Spacewar!, in that they implement a gravity well that influences the movement of all other objects in the game.

They add another dimension to the game, which you can either use to your advantage, or which can be your undoing, depending upon how you deal with them.

So here are some tips and tricks:

  • Your ship is fitted with intertial stabilisers: this is why it will eventually come to a halt when no thrust is applied. It also means that, unlike most other game objects, your ship has some capacity to resist the pull of black holes. Eventually, when that pull becomes too much, your ship will get sucked towards the black hole. You’ll notice that flying saucers are also less affected by black holes than, for example, asteroids, because they too are fitted with inertial stabilisers.

  • Contact with black holes is not in itself fatal, however if you get too close your ship can either be captured (albeit temporarily), or more likely accelerated around the black hole and slingshotted off unpredictably. This can leave you in the direct path of other hazards, such as asteroids or flying saucers, and lead very quickly to your demise.

  • It’s advisable to give black holes a wide birth, both because of their tendency to cause your ship to accelerate unpredictably, and also because they draw other objects - particularly inanimate objects such as asteroids - towards themselves. This means that you can find yourself in the middle of a vortex of coalescing rocks from which you won’t be able to escape, except by using your always risky hyperspace capability.

  • If a black hole is around, having fewer other objects on the screen is generally better due to the tendency for the black hole to slingshot these objects around in unpredictable ways. I.e., try to avoid a situation in which you have shot all the larger asteroids and turned them into a much larger number of smaller asteroids, otherwise you’re probably going to be quickly annihilated in a collision. Similarly, if you only have a few smaller asteroids left at the end of a level, perhaps draw out completion of that level for as long as possible, or avoid shooting too many larger asteroids when the next level begins.

  • If you see lots of asteroids being drawn towards the black hole at once this can be a good opportunity to quickly clean up by shooting rapidly directly at the black hole. Hopefully your shots and the asteroids will be drawn together in the black hole’s gravity well leading to mass destruction. Do keep yourself at a safe distance so you have some chance of avoiding any errant rocks that are thrown out of the gravity well towards you.

Hopefully these tips will help you effectively take advantage of the presence of black holes, without falling foul of their dangers.
Play Shoot The Rocks now to try them out.

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